The longer she thought, the more bewildered she grew. There seemed no analogy that she knew. Here was a unique thing, and she climbed to her bedroom and stared at the stars.
John Taylor had written to his sister. He wanted information, very definite information, about Tooms County cotton; about its stores, its people—especially its people. He propounded a dozen questions, sharp, searching questions, and he wanted the answers tomorrow. Impossible! thought Miss Taylor. He had calculated on her getting this letter yesterday, forgetting that their mail was fetched once a day from the town, four miles away. Then, too, she did not know all these matters and knew no one who did. Did John think she had nothing else to do? And sighing at the thought of to-morrow’s drudgery, she determined to consult Miss Smith in the morning.
Miss Smith suggested a drive to town—Bles could take her in the top-buggy after school—and she could consult some of the merchants and business men. She could then write her letter and mail it there; it would be but a day or so late getting to New York.
“Of course,” said Miss Smith drily, slowly folding her napkin, “of course, the only people here are the Cresswells.”
“Oh, yes,” said Miss Taylor invitingly. There was an allurement about this all-pervasive name; it held her by a growing fascination and she was anxious for the older woman to amplify. Miss Smith, however, remained provokingly silent, so Miss Taylor essayed further.
“What sort of people are the Cresswells?” she asked.
“The old man’s a fool; the young one a rascal; the girl a ninny,” was Miss Smith’s succinct and acid classification of the county’s first family; adding, as she rose, “but they own us body and soul.” She hurried out of the dining-room without further remark. Miss Smith was more patient with black folk than with white.
The sun was hanging just above the tallest trees of the swamp when Miss Taylor, weary with the day’s work, climbed into the buggy beside Bles. They wheeled comfortably down the road, leaving the sombre swamp, with its black-green, to the right, and heading toward the golden-green of waving cotton fields. Miss Taylor lay back, listlessly, and drank the soft warm air of the languorous Spring. She thought of the golden sheen of the cotton, and the cold March winds of New England; of her brother who apparently noted nothing of leaves and winds and seasons; and of the mighty Cresswells whom Miss Smith so evidently disliked. Suddenly she became aware of her long silence and the silence of the boy.
“Bles,” she began didactically, “where are you from?”
He glanced across at her and answered shortly:
“Georgia, ma’am,” and was silent.
The girl tried again.
“Georgia is a large State,”—tentatively.